Rowers travel from Washington

Pair use homemade boat to travel around the islands

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This fall when they get asked, ‘What did you do over the summer,’ Heather Longfellow and Ryan Hashagen will have quite the story to tell.

The pair are rowing their 5.5-metre homemade boat from Anacortes, Wash. up to and around Salt Spring and Thetis islands, and then stopping in at several Gulf Islands before returning south and home.

“We’re having a wonderful little rowboat cruise around the San Juan and Gulf islands, just exploring the Canadian waters and having a wonderful time,” Hashagen said.

The pair live in Portland, Ore., where Longfellow works as an art teacher, and Hashagen runs a tricycle ice cream business. Hashagen has taken their boat to Salt Spring before. In 2006 he made a solo trip to the island for what he then described as “a diplomatic visit to discover common denominators in U.S./Canadian culture.”

While it is possible to purchase a boat to make this kind of trip, Hashagen and Longfellow decided to use the homemade variety.

“I’ve had it since high school, rebuilt it three times and it’s just a sturdy craft. We repainted it this winter,” Hashagen said. “We’ve navigated through tidal rips, across the border, through Rosario and Haro straits, up through Sidney channel.”

“I think he likes having stuff to tinker on,” Longfellow added.

Though they have experience in travelling all over the world, the pair wanted to explore a bit closer to home this time. They launched from Washington state and made their way north. Using a pair of oars and a small paddle for steering, they made it to Salt Spring with five days on the water. They plan on circumnavigating Thetis Island and exploring other islands.

“I love the Pacific Northwest, Canada and the North American continent, but I’ve never seen what’s really out here when you get out in the backcountry and out in the wild,” said Longfellow. “I was super excited to see the Gulf Islands.”

Their route planning was aided by the Salish Sea trail system south of the border, and the B.C. Marine Trails map once they crossed into Canada. They have been camping at sites on the trail network, and have had serene nights on the water since they left.

“It’s been a slow, patient way to travel,” Hashagen said. “We’re watching the waters and tides. With the waxing full moon we’ve had great tides in our favour. It’s been really nice.”

For more on this story, see the August 14, 2019 issue of the Gulf Islands Driftwood newspaper, or subscribe online.

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